Anyone expecting a nuanced look into what turns fans into obsessives, or what separates law enforcement from vigilantes will be disappointed. For any Marvel fan looking to scratch that superhero itch, Unknown Origins will suffice.
As the Coronavirus creates massive social upheaval around the world, one chance of lesser note is that 2020 has become possibly the first summer in recent memory without superhero movies. The few exceptions, such as The Old Guard and those New Mutants, have emphasized lower stakes, character-based antics. But the lack of big-screen experiences doesn’t mean that superheroes are far from our screen.
Unknown Origins, Netflix’s new Spanish-language thriller, follows detectives on the case of a serial killer. Cosme (Antonio Resines) is a grizzled older cop who brings along up and coming detective David (Javier Ray) to a gruesome crime scene. The baffling murder is brought into light by Cosme’s comic-book obsessed son Jorge (Brays Efe) who notes its similarity to an edition of the Incredible Hulk. They realize their serial killer is inspired by superhero origin stories, giving Jorge a chance to prove his worth to his father.
If that sounds like a mashup of Seven (SeSevenen?) and Unbreakable, it’s because that’s exactly what Unknown Origins is, although with a side of “cops are the real superheroes” mentality. The film feels like a work of pastiche of the aforementioned films with nerd-dom in general, as Jorge’s knowledge helps them crack the case. Unfortunately, Unknown Origins never rises to the depth of either of those films.
Instead, it seems content to play out as a b-movie genre exercise, hitting all the tropes on the head, then underlining them again, just in case you didn’t catch them. Characters will speak plot points or their backstory seemingly unprompted. At a laundromat, Javier breaks it down to Cosme; “Everyone automatically assumes I wanted to become a cop because my parents are murdered… but it’s really because… I want to do the right thing.” Subtlety was clearly not at the top of the writers’ minds.
But what Unknown Origins lacks in subtext it makes up for in genre delight. There’s gore, suspense, superhero references, and some colorful characters, including a police chief with a penchant for cosplay, and a mortician who seems just a bit too happy with his profession. Anyone expecting a nuanced look into what turns fans into obsessives, or what separates law enforcement from vigilantes will be disappointed. For any Marvel fan looking to scratch that superhero itch, Unknown Origins will suffice.
Cole Sansom is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based out of Philadelphia